What was worse was the Holocaust or slavery
Of guilt and debt
For centuries these people had to toil to death and they were never paid for their work. All the profit went into the hands of the white ruling class, creating a structure in which the poorest white man was still better off than any black person. It was not only a business crime, but also a psychological one. And it continued even after slavery was abolished. In America, this manifests itself in the form of different salaries and housing conditions, including homelessness and healthcare. But blacks suffer not only in the USA but everywhere, including in the former colonies and in Europe. Many think it is mostly about the crimes of the past; but that is inseparable from the crimes that are being committed in the present.
Members of various black political groups have set up information stands on the mall in Washington to inform the population of their demands. Theresa Al-Amin from Detroit is also there. Although large masses were not mobilized, she admits, a wide range of protest groups are nonetheless represented. In addition, says Theresa Al-Amin, the demand for reparations should be understood in many ways. Especially as an African-American teacher, some of them could fully agree with them.
There are many demands; after all, the movement is very dynamic. Some of us have our sights set on the companies that insured the slave owners. Others call for a free education system. I think there is indeed a lack of cultural sensitivity in American schools. For example, 84 percent of all new teachers are white women. But many of them are incompetent. They are afraid of black boys and are leaving the service in terrifying numbers. That needs to change.
Right next to the information stand, behind which the teacher is handing out leaflets calling for more black teachers to be hired, are two demonstrators: young men with dreadlocks and silver jewelry who are greeting a few friends. Kofi Ade explains the reasons why he is demonstrating here. It is a fact that everything in this society is directed against the African peoples. When you walk around the cities you see loads of examples of European greatness; We don't have such monuments because we suffered from slavery. Other people have received reparations too, the Jews, the Indians, the Japanese prisoners of war. We need reparations because we are still suffering from the effects of slavery.
Buses from all over the country arrive in front of the Capitol from morning to evening. Buses with demonstrators carrying posters and banners with slogans such as "No justice, no peace". Someone who calls himself 'Brother Mac' has come from New York.
Tell the Europeans to get out of Africa. We want it back, then we'll be even. Give us back our home. I don't need any sermons, no schools, not even your money, because the basis of all life on this planet is land.
The reparations movement of Afro-Americans in the USA received a new impetus after the World Conference against Racism and Intolerance in Durban / South Africa. Sam Anderson attended the United Nations event last year.
The conference in Durban was historic in the sense that it was here for the first time in a long time that a kind of community spirit was established among the black peoples. The United Nations there agreed that slavery, slave trade and colonialism are crimes against humanity, even though the US and Israel boycotted the conference in the end.
In the spring of this year, a class action lawsuit by Afro-Americans against six companies that made huge profits from slavery more than 150 years ago and are still involved in the economy today caused an international stir. Richard Barber of New Jersey is one of the plaintiffs. His great aunt and five of her siblings were owned by a slave owner. Richard Barber remembers how his great-aunt warned him about the whites as a child. America has a great debt to pay, Richard Barber has no doubt of that. He sees the most sensible way of achieving this goal to hold certain companies accountable.
The class action we brought is not meant to be symbolic. We are serious about it. We identified more than 100 companies with links to slavery. You made a lot of money with it. The wealth that they have amassed and with which they continue to work today, they owe to the sweat and blood of the slaves. Our ancestors toiled for 246 years without getting paid. We are entitled to some of this wealth. There's a word for that: debt. And debts remain debts until they are paid back.
More than 200 years of slavery in the US created a legacy that continues today. It was abolished in 1865 and the four million African slaves were formally released back then. But despite promises to the contrary, they got neither money nor land. It is true that they received the constitutionally guaranteed equal citizenship rights as all other Americans. But at no point did they or their descendants achieve the same social status. Even decades after slavery was banned, apartheid-like laws degraded African Americans to second-class people in some southern states; One must also remember the widely practiced lynching and the terror of white groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
It was not until the civil rights movement around Martin Luther King that an active gender equality policy was achieved and that large parts of the American public became aware of racism. Even so, the social divide between black and white persisted in America, claims attorney Roger Wareham. As a reason, he cites economic connections that have so far been neglected by civil rights activists. Wareham believes that the real causes go back to the days of slavery. Therefore, the companies that would have benefited would have to be held accountable. Roger Wareham is one of the attorneys who advise and represent the plaintiffs.
The Aetna Insurance insured the property of the slave traders, the slaves, against injury and death, but only to the extent of two-thirds of their value. The "Fleet Bank", the predecessor of today's "Providence Bank", was involved in the slave trade by financing the ships used to transport slaves. The railway company CSX borrowed slaves from slave owners for good payment, who had to lay railroad lines across the country. These are industrial companies from sectors such as transportation, banking, insurance, cotton, tobacco and rice. We're going to sue them all.
The plaintiffs aim to create public pressure on the companies. They do not rule out an out-of-court settlement with corresponding payments. For Richard Barber, the plaintiff from New Jersey, it is clear where the sums should go: into a national fund. But it's not just about money for him.
As a descendant of slaves and as one who has sued 35 million descendants of slaves in America, I want compensation. A large part should go to a national fund to set up development and education projects for African Americans. Still, there is simply not that much money to compensate for the suffering, rape and torture of our ancestors. It's also about dignity, about finally publicly admitting that there was slavery, and about the fact that slave labor built this country up. Only when these problems are resolved will America develop its full potential and be an America for all of its citizens.
Many activists within the reparations movement are, of course, aware of the limits of legal action, such as lawyer Efia Wangaza.
Legal action must focus on the consequences of the 'Holocaust of Enslavement'. This has more to do with analyzing the consequences than with realizing a certain strategy of action. Whether one can be directly compensated for slavery is questionable because it is difficult to make retroactive claims. One of the lawsuits goes in this direction, but it will be difficult because it relates to something that happened in the past. But the US government has also pushed through regulations to support the forced labor lawsuit of Jewish organizations against German companies.
Since slavery and especially the slave trade were cross-border, the reparations movement is not limited to the United States. Representatives of the international reparations movement want the former colonial powers to apologize to the descendants of the slaves. But monetary demands are also made. One of the proposals is that the World Bank loans, which were granted to third world countries in the past, not only remain interest-free, but do not have to be repaid at all. If payments are ever made in the US at all, then, according to Sam Anderson, the lion's share should be put into the social infrastructure of African American communities, while only small sums should go to individual families. His reason:
Cash withdrawals should be at the very bottom of the scale. Let's say everyone gets $ 50,000. This money would immediately flow back into the pockets of the established corporations. Nike would design reparations sneakers. There would be reparations t-shirts and pants and they would have the profit while our housing developments still rot. Because we are just as much a part of this fantastic consumer industry as everyone else - according to the motto: Buy until you drop. This is our national anthem.
Anderson is also against paying out sums of money to individuals for another reason.
Whatever else might happen, they'd say okay, you got your $ 50,000; but then we don't want to hear any more about racism and white supremacy; this is your severance payment, and now you've caught up. What can you say? In any case, something like this could happen if the reparations movement does not have a competent leadership.
The demands and the strategy of the reparations movement are also controversial within the Afro-American communities. There are lawyers who do not give class actions a chance, because slavery dates back several generations and concrete cases of damage from which descendants could suffer today can hardly be proven in detail. Another problem with lawsuits is that it would have to be demonstrated how companies still benefit from what was once slavery today. There is the question of legality and whether a court can retrospectively declare a legal situation to be unlawful. Because trade in slaves, imports and husbandry were constitutionally secured until 1808. Others, like Berkeley University's conservative linguistics professor John McWater, argue that reparations have been made in the past.
It seems to me that we got reparations long before they were even labeled as such. That was in the mid-1960s, when social legislation was deliberately expanded by the government to include poor blacks. Then there were development projects across the country to make the city centers attractive again. What today's reparations movement demands was fulfilled years ago.
One of the criticisms that are brought into the reparations discussion from outside revolves around the terminology. The Afro-American movement is talking about the "Holocaust of Slavery" with increasing frequency - a very controversial strategy because the word "Holocaust" has historically only been used in connection with Nazi Germany and the extermination of the Jews. Sam Anderson's view on this:
There are only a few words in the English language that convey this horror, but the term Holocaust, which became popular after World War II, does. In Swahili they say "Maafa", this word is the same, but it is only just getting started gradually becoming familiar. The problem is that Zionists today claim that people of Jewish descent are supposedly the only ones who have been persecuted, and therefore no one else can claim the word Holocaust. Blacks are even asked to find their very own term. Some say you were all about forced labor, not murder like us. Anyone who says such a thing clearly has no understanding of what slavery means. A black life was worthless back then, so the slaves had to work their way to death. For example, if you worked on a sugar plantation, you could do it for a maximum of 18 months. Then fell dead. This is murder.
New Black Panthers: "Terrible thing, we should get paid for this. What - you don't know? You don´t know? Did you hear this? ...
A tense scene at the booth of the radical "New Black Panther Party". A white man has just expressed doubts as to whether and how reparations payments should be made. The spokesman for the Panthers, wearing a battle suit, holds the megaphone in front of the white man's face and shouts: What, you are not sure? What kind of compassion is that? You are probably a Jew. You must have been paid for the Holocaust. And we should probably forget - no, we do not forget, never.
"Are you Jewish? Did you think you should get paid for the Holocaust? And we are supposed to forget, ha? No, we don't forget, we will never forget."
Another panther picks up the microphone and claims that Jews financed the slave trade. The Jews would control the finances anyway.
Black nationalists and anti-Semites from the circle of Louis Farrakhan, the black Islamic preacher from Chicago, mixed with the protesters on the Mall in Washington. For them, the whites personify the devil, and in their paranoid worldview, the Jews are even worse than the devil. The fact that such groups can remain undisturbed at demonstrations by African-Americans and can spread their ideology is a reason for many whites and especially for Jewish groups to distance themselves from the reparations movement. So also for Robert Goldmann, a Jewish journalist from Germany who was able to flee from the Nazis just in time.
The Jews in Europe were a minority that was to be exterminated and, for the most part, was exterminated. The black minority in America has never been the object of targeted extermination. The distinction between certain death and severe, suffering discrimination must not be blurred.
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